University of Sheffield becomes part of £92 million UK research partnership

A partnership between the rail supply industry and a consortium of seven universities including the University of Sheffield has secured £92 million to fund research aimed at establishing the UK as a world-leading centre of railway excellence.

The partnership – part of the newly-created UK Railway Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN) – has won £28.1 million funding from the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF) managed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). The funding will be boosted by £64 million of support from 17 industrial partners including British Steel, Alstom, Siemens and Bombardier Transportation.

The funding will be used to create three linked world-class centres of excellence, led by the University of Birmingham, which will focus on Digital Systems, Rolling Stock, and Infrastructure. Infrastructure will be a key part of the project involving the University of Sheffield, partnering with British Steel in this work.

These centres of excellence, together with existing UK Rail Test Centres, are the foundation of UKRRIN, bringing together the UK rail supply industry and academia to undertake world-leading research and innovation in rail.

The UKRRIN will support delivery of the ambitious Rail Technical Strategy and is aligned with the aims of the Government’s Industrial Strategy.

With these world class centres of excellence, the UK rail supply industry will be able to develop world-leading new technologies and products for trains, railway systems and infrastructure that will deliver a better, more reliable and efficient railway.

Passengers will directly benefit from the research leading to improved technology; a better infrastructure with increased reliability that can be more effectively managed. The High Speed 2 project will also be an early beneficiary of the world-leading research.

Dr David Fletcher, Director of the Rail Innovation and Technology Centre at the University of Sheffield, said: “This is exciting collaboration for academia and industry. The University of Sheffield will play a key part in this research, using our expertise in railway infrastructure to power the future of railway innovation in the UK for years to come.”

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said: “The UK’s world-renowned leadership in science, research and innovation is helping to solve a range of national and global challenges, and the breadth of the projects funded today means this will continue.

“Through our Industrial Strategy and £4.7 billion investment for research and development, we’re ensuring we capitalise on the great work taking place in universities across the UK and remain at the forefront of innovation.”

Gordon Wakeford, Divisional Managing Director for Siemens Mobility UK and Industry Chair of the Rail Supply Group, said: “This investment brings together a range of British universities renowned for their expertise in railway research, backed by leading partners across the rail supply industry.

“UKRRIN will, undoubtedly, create important strategic partnerships and support future high speed rail programmes in the UK and around the world.”

Dr Iain Roche, Head of Innovation at HS2 Ltd., said: “HS2 will be a transformative project for the UK rail sector.

“It will require world leading innovative approaches to delivering infrastructure projects alongside cutting-edge design.

“The formation of this UK network is great news for the sector and I’m absolutely sure it will help us bring the innovation required for HS2 to become reality.”

The initiative is being supported by a range of clients and stakeholders including Network Rail, HS2 Ltd, Transport for London, Rail North and the Department for Transport.

IBM, Unipart Rail, SMRT, British Steel, RSSB, Thales, Hitachi, AECOM, Aggregate Industries, Atkins, Pandrol and Progress Rail are also among the 17 industrial partners supporting the partnership over a 10-year period.

Further information can be obtained from the UKRRIN website:

Additional Information

  • The University of Sheffield has railway research activity across its Faculty of Engineering. In 2009 it was selected as a Network Rail Strategic University Partner, and is now additionally a university partner of the Transport Systems Catapult. Rail expertise that will input to UKRRIN is focused particularly in the areas of rail-wheel contact, rail metallurgy, overhead line design, in addressing friction, wear and lubrication issues, and also in wider modelling of rail networks (train trajectory planning, timetable planning, and achievement of passenger satisfaction).
  • The UK Research Partnership Investment Fund supports higher education research in areas of research excellence to attract investment, and to strengthen the contribution of research to the economy. UKRPIF is managed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), in collaboration with the other three UK higher education funding bodies, with proposals assessed by an independent assessment panel.
  • The UK Railway Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN) was established to bring together existing facilities and to create new centres of excellence in digital rail systems, rolling stock and infrastructure. RPIF funding provides the foundation infrastructure for UKRRIN, which is expected to grow over time.
  • The Rail Supply Group aims to strengthen the capability and competitiveness of the UK rail supply chain to grow business at home and abroad. The establishment of centres of excellence to ‘accelerate the uptake of innovation’ was a key initiative in RSG’s 2016 strategy ‘Fast Track to the Future’.
  • The Technical Leadership Group (TLG) is sponsored by its two key stakeholders: the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) which is driving the delivery of Britain’s railway to customers and the Rail Supply Group (RSG) with the objective to ‘enable the rail industry to efficiently and effectively deliver its agreed plans through the use of technology’. TLG are the authors of the Rail Technical Strategy and its accompanying Capability Delivery Plan.
  • The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) funds and regulates universities and colleges in England. It invests on behalf of students and the public to promote excellence and innovation in research, teaching and knowledge exchange. HEFCE aims to create and sustain the conditions for a world-leading system of higher education which transforms lives, strengthens the economy, and enriches society.